Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

How Green Was My Garden: Gardening, Social Media & Bacon go to the Fair

Social Media Breakfast MSP 26 is being hosted at the Minnesota State Fair Progress Building on Friday May 21st from 8am to 10am discussing Urban/Organic/ Gardening & Farming.  Your venerable  blogger (yes me) will be trying not to embarass herself as the moderator of a very good panel of guests assembled to discuss how they use social media to promote their businesses, sell their products and connect with their communities.

Panelists include:

* Susan Berkson, Minneapolis Farmers Market (MPLS Farmers Market on Facebook)
* Debbie Morrison, Sapsucker Farms www.sapsuckerfarms.com
* Barbara Hegman, PlantJotter www.plantjotter.com
* Lee Zukor, Simple Good & Tasty www.simplegoodandtasty.com
* Kirsten Saylor, Gardening Matters www.gardeningmatters.org

Generous sponsors include Organic Valley and Mother Earth Gardens. At the event will be a mini-market with several vendors and organizations displaying their messages and wares. Please stop by for some bacon and lively discussion of how farmers, growers, advocates, markets and more are using social media in the vibrant world of sustainable growing.

How Green Was My Garden: The Underground Tapes

You have seen them on the market, seed tapes, they make gardening look so simple, just lay down a row of tape for a perfect row of carrots or onions or other traditional varieties of flowers or vegetables.

But did you know it is relatively simple to make your own seed tapes? I made my own this year for some carrots. In a few easy steps you too can quickly make easy to place seed tapes, no more blowing seeds and you can have perfectly straight rows.

The first step is materials which are just flour, water, toilet paper & seeds.  Because I am an organic gardener I used 100% recycled content toilet paper, brands such as 7th Generation or Marcal Small Steps are good, and organic unbleached flour, which is available at most coops or grocery stores and organic seed, I used Botanical Interests Carnival Blend Carrot Seed.

Start by making a paste with the flour and some water, it should be the consistancy of runny yoghurt. Then pull a stretch of toilet paper in a managable length. Then you are ready to make some seed tape!

Paste & Toilet Paper

Place small dots of paste along the bottom of the toilet paper spaced however far apart your seed packet specifies. Then in each of the dots place a seed.

Seeds on paste dots

While the paste is still wet fold the bottom of the toilet paper up on the dots and press lightly, and fold over once again. The moisture of the paste will seal the toilet paper to form a seed tape. Two or three folds are all that is needed so if you have excess just trim the paper with scissors.

Finished tapes

After you have completed your tapes you are ready to plant them in your garden! Prep your bed as you would if you were direct sowing seeds and just lay the tape down, covering lightly with 1/4 inch of soil, and water lightly.

Planted tape before covering

Follow the instructions on your seed packet before placing in seed tape, meaning if the seeds require any special treatment, like soaking prior to sowing, do that before making your tapes.

Seed Tapes are a great way to ensure straight rows for your crops and to make certain you won’t have to thin your plants after sowing seeds.  For those of you with children in your life making seed tapes can also be a fun activity for the little ones to do to get them involved in the garden, and it wouldn’t even matter if they ate the paste!  And just like in Mission Impossible, the seed tapes will Self Destruct, leaving little evidence but your lovely harvest at the end of the season.

How Green Was My Garden: The Big Cover-Up

Last year the biggest trend in gardening & garden supplies was container gardening, specifically in specialty bags (see HGWMG post “Its In the Bag”) for everything from lettuce to potatoes. This year it is crop protection tools, everything involving row covers.  From pop-up insect screens to season extending hoop houses & cold frames, it seems the crop cover business is exploding.

Crop protection tools are exploding because they help gardeners achieve many goals. One of the most important in Minnesota is season-extension.  By using a cover to insulate your plants you can help to warm the soil & keep the plant protected from chillier temperatures, thereby allowing gardeners to plant earlier & get plants to their full potential without as much concern for the weather.

  

Too much sun & heat can also be an issue, causing delicate plants to wilt or bolt too early so a shade cover can be used to shield those plants from the elements.  For organic gardeners who would like to prevent insects (like the dreaded squash vine borer or cucumber beetle) from attacking plants, covers can be used to help prevent them from landing on your crop, but remember, the covers also prevent beneficial insects from landing, especially bees, so this tactic must be used judiciously.

In some areas birds are the biggest pest, in others rabbits or squirrels, with a crop protecting barrier these pests cannot penetrate to your plants, allowing them to thrive.

Some of the easiest row covers to install are floating row covers, basically specially made fabric you can lay over yourcrops to prevent insect damage or insulate the plants to protect them from extreme temperatures (hot or cold).

There are a few methods for using row covers, you can just float on top of plants & tack into the soil with landscape pins or you can build a structure to lay the fabric upon.  Hoops are the most common support structure, which can be made from several materials, everything from half hula-hoops to more sturdy conduit.  I purchased a hoop bender from Johnny’s Seeds to make tunnel hoops. Garden’s Alive sells different types of protective fabric that can be draped over the hoops from lightweight insect covers to frost protecting fabric.

Also available are numerous ready-made products like pop-up covers & tents that can work like greenhouses or can be kept up all season to prevent damage from insects or animals.  The pop ups work especially well on raised beds, especially smaller ones which can be very convenient for short season extension and seasonal insect prevention and allows for easy storage of the tents when not in use. These also come in different fabrics, the polyeurethane plastic for greenhouse effect and then the mesh fabrics for either insect or bird protection.

If you are really ambitious and have a large garden space you can construct a hoop house, which is basically a permanent structure like a greenhouse, but is made of polyethylene instead of glass. Crops like tomatoes, peppers and strawberries, which generally need hotter, extended growing seasons are grown in hoop houses or high tunnels

Commercial growers have been using the season extending row covers for years and now they have found their way to the home gardener.  With so many options for so many purposes you should be able to find one that suits your needs from container gardening to larger production gardens, so get out in your garden & Hoop it up!

 

How Green Was My Garden: Let’s get it started in here

“Everyone who enjoys thinks that the principal thing to the tree is the fruit, but in point of fact the principal thing to it is the seed. — Herein lies the difference between them that create and them that enjoy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Seedstarting. Not too long ago it was only for hardcore gardeners with casual gardeners usually purchasing seedlings ready to plant from big garden centers.  But the rebirth of vegetable gardening, especially urban gardens, has caused a huge surge in seed sales & folks trying their hand at seedstarting. 

Locally Mother Earth Gardens has offered seminars on seedstarting for years but in the past two the free seminars have reached capacity for reservations as soon as they are announced.  Their beginning seminars are full of people who are just starting their gardens as well as those who have never started their garden from seed before.  The seminars were so successful the neighborhood garden store added an advanced seminar. 

Advanced Seedstarting Seminar from Mother Earth Garden

During the advanced seminar we shared stories about how long we’ve been gardening, the best gardening books, and most of the time was spent sharing each gardener’s tips for everything on fruit trees, pruning raspberries and of course pest control. 

Seedstarting is simple once you have the right tools.  The most common mistake is hoping that sunlight in Minnesota is sufficient for good germination & plant growth.  The spring sun locally is not good enough and must be supplemented with grow lights.  There are many more options this season than ever before for setting up the best light system for your seeds.  I purchased hanging lamps  and just use a wire rack shelf from Target for all the trays but if you would rather have a ready-made system there are many options available, though they tend to be a bit expensive. 

The other key to good seedstarting is heat.  I keep my seeds in the utility room next to the water heater & furnace so it gets very warm in there. But there are many heat mats available as well to help you maintain that warmth. 

Humidity control is also important for good germination of your seeds, so making sure you have the plastic greenhouse lids on your trays until they are big enough for thinning out is key.  Different shapes available from large domes for bigger plants & short ones to greenhouse shaped units

Moisture is the final key to good seedstarting.  The plastic domes will help you maintain good water levels in your soil but you need to maintain tht with proper watering, not too wet (seedlings will rot & be suceptible to damp off) and not too dry.  Watering from above is okay as long as the spout on your watering can disperses the water without disturbing the soil.  Or you can water from below in the trays, just make sure you only water enough for the plugs to absorb & they aren’t sitting in standing water. 

Seeds at Mother Earth

The biggest advantage to seedstarting yourself is the increased selection of plants you can choose.  There are so many heirloom varieties and unique hybrids to choose from when using seeds that would never be available at your farmer’s market or garden store.  I usually purchase some seeds in stores in my neighborhood like Minnehaha Falls Nursery or Mother Earth & supplement those with ordering from garden catalogs.  The best part of February is pouring over my seed catalogs to choose what I will grow this year. 

 

This year I am adding some new lettuce varieties as well as a melon, interesting cabbage & brussels sprouts & filet beans to my garden, things that would only be affordable and even found through seed catalogs. 

Some good choices for organic seed catalogs include  Minnesota’s own Peter’s Seeds, TomatoFest, Botanical Interests, John Scheepers, Seeds of Change, and Seedsavers

It is a bit late for starting some veggies from seed, like onions & leeks, which I started in late February.  But in the right conditions you should be able to still get your seeds started on most all other vegetables now and early April.  The University of Minnesota Extension service has a great guide for a good seedstarting schedule. 

Because of our early warm weather you can get a jump start on direct sowing on things like peas, lettuce, radish, spinach and carrots.  You can just put those directly in your pots or raised beds, or in the ground if it is in a sunny location and has warmed up enough. It is best to wait just a bit longer on things like squash & beans because as we all know in Minnesota there is always a chance for more cold, including a hard frost or snow. 

So if you have never grown your plants from seeds, it is very easy & affordable with a few tricks & tips.  There will always be crop failures, it happens to nurseries too. But you can still be successful & have the great satisfaction of growing your own food from seed to table and have a fantastic variety of flowers too! So what are you growing from seed this year?

How Green Was My Garden: Master of your Domain, or at least your Garden

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Program in Hennepin County is looking for a few good gardeners!  They are looking for Hennepin County residents with a variety of gardening experiences; previous volunteer experience; good communication skills, including public speaking and leadership skills.  More information can be found on their website — www.hcmg.umn.edu.  

Terry Straub
Program Coordinator
University of Minnesota Extension
Hennepin County Master Gardener Program
479 Prairie Center Drive
Eden Prairie, MN   55344-5378
P:  612.596.2130
F:  952.828.7280
Preferred E-mail at:  strau097@umn.edu
Hennepin County Master Gardener Hotline:  612.596.2118

Become a Master Gardener!  Applications are now on-line at www.hcmg.umn.edu.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Marcus Tullius Cicero

How Green Was My Garden: Everyone loves a Parade OR It’s all about Community

From our friends at Gardening Matters comes this announcement:

The Minneapolis Parade of Community Gardens is August 22nd.   It will be a wonderful kick off to National Community Gardening Week that was declared by the US Department of Agriculture.   Minneapolis & St Paul City Councils will be passing resolutions proclaiming August 22nd as  “Community Garden Day”, honoring each and every community garden and the hard work that everyone contributes to making these green spaces community assets.

It is important to show support for these resolutions being put forth by the cities so if you have an opportunity to stop by the City Council meetings this week please do so.

The entire process takes only 15-30minutes.  Quick and Easy. Let the city council know just how important these green spaces are to our neighborhoods.  You won’t need to say anything — your presence will say it all.

Minneapolis City Council Meeting
Friday, August 14, 2009
9:30 a.m.
300 5th St
Council Chambers, Room 317 City Hall, Minneapolis

St Paul City Council Meeting
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
3:30 p.m.
15 Kellogg W Blvd
Council Chambers, Third Floor City Hall, Saint Paul

The International Outreach Church Community Garden in Burnsville is working on a City of Burnsville Resolution also! Right on!! Date of Resolution TBA.

Parade of Community Garden brochures can be found at www.gardeningmatters.org or call 612-492-8964!

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Dowling Community Garden

I have had the joy of growing up next door to the Dowling Community Garden all my life, and while my own backyard is large enough that I do not need the space of a community garden, I enjoy walking by every day and watching the crops and flowers grow, and my neighbors tending to their plots.  I speak with many of them at Mother Earth Gardens each spring about what they are going to plant and during the summer we commiserate about the lack of rain.  Community Gardens are a most wonderous thing and there are not nearly enough of them in the Twin Cities, though we are fortunate that there are far more here than other cities,  as the Parade will attest.   Each year it is such a thrill to see how many more have been added to the Parade.

Community Gardens are not just enjoyable for me, there is research that more and more people are enjoying them. The makers of Scotts Miracle Gro (they do make an organic product now at least, and their research was insightful), sponsored a comprehensive white paper on gardening in America.   In it they state  “Among households that don’t currently participate in food gardening, 3 percent would be extremely interested and 4 percent would be very interested in having a plot in a community garden located near their home. That translates to an estimated 5 million households that would like to garden in a community garden in the future, compared to the 1 million households that are current community gardeners.”

Five million additional people could be joining the community gardening movement if we could only find safe and clean spaces for them.  And not only could this be helpful in creating a further sense of community, providing safe, healthy produce, and an enjoyable activity for the family, but according to a 2006 study by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University & the New York School of Law:  “The opening of a community garden has a statistically significant positive impact on residential properties within 1000 feet of the garden, and that the impact increases over time.  We also find that higher quality gardens have the greatest positive impact.  Finally, we find that gardens have the greatest impact in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Community Gardens can increase your property value,  more and more people want to participate, they provide an economical source of fresh produce that is good for the environment and on top of all that, gardening is good exercise and is one of the most enjoyable activities imaginable.  So if you can, please go to your City Council meeting, or send your regards to your representative in support of National Community Gardening Week and Community Gardening Day. Because with more support from our government, perhaps more of those 5 million people nationwide can have that chance to participate in this great activity known as Community Gardening.  Maybe one of them is you!

For more information on how to start a Community Garden, the American Community Gardening Association is a wonderful resource as is of course, Gardening Matters mentioned above.  The City of Minneapolis also has the specific details on rules for starting a Community Garden on their website.

How Green Was My Garden: Its not over until the Fat Lady Sings about Sustainable Agriculture

People have been singing to their plants for years. And there have even been scientific studies on the effects of music on plant growth.   Now there is a traveling Opera being performed in local Community Gardens in the Twin Cities. Mixed Precipitation is presenting  Orpheus and Eurydice: a picnic operetta,  “a celebration of the sustainable foods system with brave mortals, a three headed-dog, tear-jerking lovers and locally sourced food samplings.”

Roland Hawkins II and Meredith Cain-Nielsen encounter the unexpected during their musical picnic (photo credit-Brad Dahlgaard)

Mixed Precipitation is also hosting a Brunch Benefit at the Bedlam Theater

Saturday August 15th 11:00–1:30
Sunday August 16th 11:00–1:30

Featuring  live music by Karen Townsend, others and a champagne toast to ecological design and backyard barnyards. Leave with a few gardening tips from master gardeners!

Bedlam Theatre is located at 1501 S 6th St, Mpls

This production is directed by Scotty Reynolds and features the spirited music direction of Erik Pearson, dynamic choreography of Taja Will and the work of culinary interludes of collaborating chef Nick Schneider of Café Brenda

Suggested donation: $10 to $40

Community Garden Schedule:

Sat. August 29th 4:00 at the Birchwood Community Garden

(2544 Hwy 100 South in St. Louis Park, behind Reformation Lutheran Church)

***audio description provided at this performance

Sunday August 30th at the JD River’s Children’s Garden

(Glenwood and Washburn Ave in Theodore Wirth Park, Mpls)

Saturday September 5th on Nicollet Island

(Maple Place and Nicollet Street)

Saturday September 12th 4:00 at the Columbus Community Garden

(33rd and Columbus Ave, Minneapolis)

Sunday September 13th 4:00 at Celeste’s Dream Community Garden

(1880 Randolph Ave, outside the Sister of St. Joseph Carondelet, St. Paul)

Saturday September 26th 4:00 at the Augsburg Community Garden

(20th Avenue and 6th Street, Mpls)

Sunday September 27th 4:00 at the Midway Green Spirit Community Garden

(at the intersection of Taylor and Hamline Avenue and Pierce Butler)

Tickets:  612.619.2112

$10–$20 Suggested Donation  (no one will be turned away for lack of funds)

All Hail The Pumpkin King!

017Even before I dialed the phone number to call Chad Revier, Minnesota State Pumpkin Champion, I repeated over and over in my head “Don’t geek out, don’t geek out, don’t geek out.”

You see, I love the pumpkins.

I started growing them about 9 years ago and it’s been one of those hobbies that borders on obsession with my specialty being growing what I considered large pumpkins,100-300 lbs, and a myriad of decorative and classic pumpkins all on a city lot. Some of you may even recall my videos A Pumpkin Opera and Running through the pumpkin patch.

So when the chance arose to interview Chad Revier, the Minnesota Pumpkin King (1,428 lbs.), well . . . . I geeked out.

This is the first interview in a three part series as I stalk Mr.Revier through the 2009 growing season.

1) How many years have you been growing pumpkins?
I have been growing for three years, this will be my second year of competitive growing.

2) What made you decide to start growing pumpkins? A few guys in the area grew giant pumpkins and I thought I would give it a try

3) How much time in a given week do you spend growing pumpkins? It varies greatly depending on the time of year. This year I expanded to 6 plants and at most spend 20-25 hours per week during peak plant growth. Things are starting to slow down now.

4) Some would say pumpkin growing becomes an addiction, what do you say about that? They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, good luck getting a grower to admit it.

5) How often do you think about pumpkins? I thought about them once about three years ago, the problem is I am still thinking.

6) How are your pumpkins doing this year compared to years prior? It is still early but my plants are bigger this year, which should lead to bigger pumpkins. A lot of bad things can happen from now until October.. All I know is there will be good days and some disappointing days.

7) Do you use any special plant foods or fertilizers? Fish emulsions, Seaweed, Humic Acid, Mycorrhizal Fungi, Compost Tea

8) What do you do with the pumpkins once they are harvested? Remove the seeds then nothing to exciting, I have displayed them at the end of the driveway, chopped them up and feed them to the cows, or just let them rot. Always looking for ideas though.

9) Do you like pumpkin soup? Never had it. Just had cucumber soup for the first time, I liked that.

10) What’s your favorite band?
Tool

Tool?
TOOL!
Rock on my brother, rock on.

Here are some pictures in case you’re wondering what Chad’s pumpkins look like at this stage in the game.

If you look beyond the rows of corn you’ll see the patch, that entire square consists of six vines.

Can you also see the whiteish dots in the patch? Those are the pumpkins.

6 vines

6 vines

This is what they look like up close. 

Wow

Wow

All I could say when I saw this monster was “Wow”, I mean really, that’s a lot of pumpkin.

Up next: Some practical tips for amateur growers and those that want to get started growing pumpkins.

If you have any questions for Chad, hit me up on Twitter or ask away in the comments.

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What’s in a name?

When it comes to plants names can be complicated botanical Latin names (Semiarundinaria) or common names (Bamboo).   For this blog, I am hoping for something in between.

Being the daughter of Welsh parents, I grew up in the garden, picking carrots from my grandfather’s allotment in Laleston, Bridgend, Wales and eating them right out of the ground, not bothering to wash them off.  I didn’t have to worry about any pesticides or herbicides; he was organic before anyone knew what that meant.

“Become green” in Welsh is “Glasu.”  Naming this blog Glasu would be a tribute to my heritage and would be a good representation of what it will discuss, gardening, environmentalism, “green” things.

But my last name is also Quick, so something funny, or pun-ny combining Quick, and Green/Gardening does seem appropriate as well. Because although I am passionate about organic gardening, environmentalism, green topics, I do like to keep things lighthearted.

So I will open the naming to creative minds of Minneapolis. If you can combine “Quick” and Green/Gardening in a pun-erific way or perhaps, with a Welsh spin, you get to name the blog, and even better, will win one of my handmade full-size natural cotton grocery totes like this:

eggplant-tote

Submit your suggestions in the comments below and if there is something that takes root, you will not only win the tote, but also bragging rights and my thanks!

The Joy of Specs

Fear My PoolI took the day off to extend the weekend and get some much needed work done at the house. My big project for the morning was to meet with a landscape contractor and come up with a plan,estimate, and timeframe. Last night, after a hard day’s work in the yard, I hit the books and studied up so I’d be prepared for the meeting.

To begin a long story that’ll be made shorter, I was stood up.

 No call, nothing. So I called and when they called back I was told they just took on a large project and weren’t interested. “You could have called and said as much. I took the day off” to which I was basically told too bad, so sad.

Now, I’d love to flame that landscaping company as a public service, but with great power comes great responsibility or something like that. And that’s just not how I roll. The owner did eventually call me back and apologise, but jeepers. Unprofessional much? The job is a 3 – 6k project so it’s not small like all I wanted was an estimate on some mulching. (which they advertise)

Anyway, my morning shaped up to be hours of phone calls looking for a new contractor.

So far, I’ve found the award winning Axel Landscape that has done work for HDTV and will let my dogs lick their face, but I fear may be too expensive. And I’ve found Just Add Water that appears to have done some lovely plantings.

Has anyone else recently had a bad experience with a contractor?

Can you recommend a good landscaping company?

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